It’s a big week for major retailers to release earnings, and as they do, market watchers will be wondering how recent technology investments are paying off and if they’re helping chains weather the economic storm.
All eyes will be on Walmart Tuesday (Aug. 16), which has made digital and omnichannel improvements central to its transformation plans. Most recently, the largest operator of physical retail stores announced it would license some of its in-house technology to other businesses and brands.
In a late July announcement, the company said, “through the Adobe Commerce platform, retail businesses will be able to use Walmart’s unique cloud-based services to offer seamless pickup and delivery to their customers. Businesses will be able to reach new customers on Walmart’s fast-growing Marketplace where they can leverage Walmart’s Fulfillment Services to offer 2-day shipping nationwide.”
As to the ‘why’ of it, Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said, “Commercializing our technologies and capabilities helps us sustainably reinvest back into our customer value proposition.”
The retail giant is also increasing its use of robotics in its distribution centers to increase the speed and accuracy from supply chain origins to the consumers’ front door.
Also set to report Q2 2022 earnings on Tuesday (Aug. 16), The Home Depot recently doubled down in its partnership — also with software firm Adobe — in a bid to use data to improve customer experience. It’s an expansion of an existing relationship, this time to help harmonize channels.
Per a June press release, the Adobe partnership will provide deep insights into customer journeys, enabling The Home Depot “to optimize experiences across channels while refining marketing investments.” It also comes at a time when the chain is hoping to extend the home nesting and improvement trend that is now menaced by rising interest and record home prices.
Also reporting Q2 2022 earnings on Tuesday is Target, which announced in March it is investing $5 billion into its stores, website, fulfillment centers and supply chain capacity in a bid to drive growth.
Target said ongoing technology investments “fuel growing digital capabilities like Roundel, which optimizes advertising placements on Target.com to deliver a more relevant, personalized guest experience and create value for partners.”
Target said the Roundel system “drove more than $1 billion in value in 2021,” which the retailer wants to double “over $2 billion in the next few years,” it said.
In late July, Target announced the addition of three new sortation centers in the next year, two in the greater Chicago area and one in the Denver metro, to speed deliveries. This is part of Target’s “stores-as-a-hub” strategy unveiled last year.
On Thursday (Aug. 18), Kohl’s will update investors on how its tech-based turnaround hopes are faring. In an interview with Protocol, Kohl’s Chief Technology and Supply Chain Officer Paul Gaffney said the retailer is innovating everything from making its app faster to improving its buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) options to greater use of data.
On the latter, Gaffney told Protocol that Kohl’s is working on “better use of data, moving from what I think has been pretty much commonplace in retail, relying on data that the firm has about itself and its customers, and instead recognizing that the universe knows a lot about our customers, probably more than we do. How do we tap into that? And how do we deliver relevant changes, whether that’s in our physical assortment in our stores, or in the way we interact with customers digitally?”
Proving that such tech investments do pay a dividend, as it were, for public companies, heavy equipment maker Caterpillar noted on its Q2 earnings call on Aug. 2 that investments made in connected IoT tech during the pandemic lull are paying off in a bad year.
Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby said, “We now have 1.2 million connected assets, so that gives us much better visibility for everything, from getting the right parts to the right dealer so that the customers get them when they need it, to allowing us to help customers avoid downtime, maximizing availability, maximize production.”